by Event Coverage StaffDecklists:Day One Undefeated Decks
by Tobi HenkeFeature Match Round 10:Raphael Levy vs. Daniele Canavesi
by David SutcliffeMulti-Feature Match Round 9:"Round Nine... Round Up!"
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 9:45 p.m.:On the Bubble
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 10:Gerald Leitzinger vs. Ken Yukuhiro (Sealed)
by David SutcliffeFeature:Shooting the Breeze
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 9:05 p.m.:Interesting Sealed Decks
by Marc CalderaroFeature:Avoiding the Traps of Sealed
by Nate PriceFeature Match Round 9: "Mind and Body over Matter"Florian Pils vs. Corey Baumeister
by Nate PriceFeature:Rising to the Top
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 8: "See This Guy's Draws?"Gerard Fabiano vs. Thomas Nagy (Sealed)
by David SutcliffeFeature Match Round 8:David Sharfman vs. Yuuya Watanabe
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 7:35 p.m.:A Double Perspective on the Weekend
by Tobi HenkeFeature Match Round 7:Kai Budde vs. Jason Ascalon
by Nate PriceFeature Match Round 7: "Mori than he Bargained For"Tim Bulger vs. Katsuhiro Mori
by Marc CalderaroFeature Match Round 6:
"Goblin Shaman-igans"Matt Nass vs. Gaudenis Vidugiris (Sealed)
by Tobi HenkeFeature Match Round 6:David Ochoa vs. Daniel Gräfensteiner
by Tim WilloughbyVintage Deck Tech:Unfair Bears
by Tim WilloughbyFeature:Full Artistry
by Josh BennettFeatureKibler's Keys to the Format
by David SutcliffeFeature MatchRound Five: Kamiel Cornelissen (NED) vs Petr Nahodil (CZE)
by Josh BennettFeature Match: Round FiveGerard Fabiano vs Robert Jurkovic
by Tobi HenkeFeature Match: Round FourFrank Karsten vs. Petr Brozek
by David SutcliffeSaturday, 2:30 p.m.I Have A Dream
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 12:35 p.m.Quick Question: Zenith of Zeniths
by Nate PriceSaturday, 12:30 p.m.The New Order
by David SutcliffeSaturday, 11:55 a.m.By The (very big) Numbers
by Tobi HenkeSaturday, 9:55 a.m.Sealed Deck Building with Kai Budde
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Saturday, 9:55 a.m. – Sealed Deck Building with Kai Budde
With a myriad of players in the room, or more accurately, in three rooms, as well as a gazillion of pros, it's not easy to decide on one player to watch. Luckily, there's one who had accumulated more pro points, more Pro Tour wins, and more Grand Prix wins during his career than any other. This player is, of course, Kai Budde, the German Juggernaut.
Unfortunately, he received a pool of cards he was not entirely happy with. "Is it even possible to get a pool without any good rare?" he asked. Most of the blue cards quickly went into the unplayable pile, and when that left very little, the rest soon followed suit. Next, he turned his attention to red: two Galvanic Blasts, Burn the Impure, and a few solid cards were left, once he removed the bad ones. "I don't even have an equipment for Bloodshot Trainee," Kai complained, as he reluctantly let go of his two Trainees.
He took a look at black, sadly shook his head, and set these cards aside too. Next, he focused on white. Two Leonin Skyhunter and two Glimmerpoint Stag could provide some beatdown, supplemented by tow Arrests, but the color was a big disappointment otherwise. He laid out his red and white cards, added some artifacts, and kept green at the side.
"Green doesn't look as good as either red or white … Ezuri's Brigade will probably never be 8/8 with all of my, like, eight artifacts." That left him with a red and white deck, and only minor adjustments still to ponder. "This Snapsail Glider is a complete failure. One, two, five … nine artifacts?" he counted in disbelief. Disgruntled, he added Viridian Claw to his deck, commenting, "I really, really don't like equipment in this format. If everyone has as many removal spells as I do — and I think that's realistic with six boosters — even the good equipment sometimes just lies around doing nothing. Well, I guess these living weapons don't count purely as equipment."
"Ben Stark said having good removal is often enough in this format. I don't know. If at least I had artifact removal," he said with a sigh, clearly subscribing to the more pessimistic approach of Sealed Deck assessment. "I mean, I have a little bit of beatdown and if I ever get Pierce Strider with Glimmerpoint Stag, I can really deal some damage, but then again most of my creatures are really weak, especially Snapsail Glider. Usually, I like Myr Turbine, but in this deck I'm not so sure. It's probably good with my Mortarpod, though."
One of the last cards he added to his deck was Kuldotha Ringleader, while the two Loxodon Partisan where still left on the sidelines. "I don't want to play all three and I think the red battle crier is just strictly better. I don't care much for its disadvantage. I want to attack anyway."
And that only left the mana base to be figured out. To do so, Kai rearranged his cards into five piles: one for artifacts, one for white cards with two white mana in their casting cost (he had quite a lot of those), one for single white, one for double red, and one for single red. He took note of the Iron Myr, then wrapped things up with a shrug, saying: "Nine, seven … and good luck."
Saturday, 11:55 a.m. – By The (very big) Numbers
A record has been broken here at Grand Prix Paris 2011 – with a grand total of 2,179 players the Magic Weekend hasn’t quite broken the record for the largest Magic tournament ever held, but it IS the largest Limited tournament ever held. More boosters have been torn open here than has ever happened before. More sealed pools registered, more decks swapped, more Mythics opened, and more fates sealed. The sheer scale of what that means can be hard to grasp, so let’s run the numbers and try to put it into some sort of perspective.
With a whopping 2,179 players in the Grand Prix it means that 13,074 booster packs were opened in the space of a couple of minutes – that’s 363 whole display boxes! Not a big enough number for you? How about the eye-watering 196,110 cards that represents, does that get your attention? A Magic card is 8.8cm long and just under 1mm thick – lay all those cards out end-to-end they would stretch for over 17 kilometres, and if you stacked them on top of each other the pile would be 196 metres high – dwarfing the Statue of Liberty (93m including pedestal) and almost two thirds the height of the Eiffel tower (324m)!
Still struggling to take it in? The lone Planeswalker in Mirrodin Besieged, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas may be a Mythic rare but there have been 82 copies of him opened here, and 164 players have either the Sword of Body and Mind or the Sword of Feast and Famine. Not enough? There are enough cards with the Living Weapon keyword to create 2,724 Germ tokens, enough Vivisections to draw 3,269 cards and enough Concussive Bolts to deal an enormous 4,358 damage straight to the dome!
In truth, any way you try to picture it this event is so big the mind boggles. But Paris has a habit of breaking these sorts of record - in fact it’s become something of a fixture certainty on the Magic calendar. Every time the Grand Prix comes to Paris it seems to be for a Limited event, and every time a new record is set. In 2008 Arjan Van Leeuwen topped a field of 1,838 players for Shards of Alara limited and in 2009 Adrian Rosada emerged victorious on Zendikar, trailing 1,960 players in his wake. For 2011 the the Pro Tour has brought all the best players in the world to Paris for the Magic Weekend – will one of them fight through the teeming masses to claim the prize this time?
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. – The New Order
The release of Mirrodin Besieged has completely shaken up the Scars of Mirrodin Block Limited format, but this isn’t anything new. This is just the course of what happens as new sets are released. We’ve been through this before. But this time, different is really different. Not only are there new cards in the mix, there is a whole new twist on drafting.
Mirrodin Besieged is the first set to be introduced under the new Draft structure, reversing over a decade of concepts and understanding about how a Draft format grows and evolves in time. This time, it’s not just a format that’s evolving, it’s Draft itself. From this point, all drafts will be done by opening the most recently released set in a block first, in this case Mirrodin Besieged. On the surface, it may look like a superficial change. If you peer deeper, you realize what a monumental change it actually is.
From the creation of the current theory on block design and organization, things have been done a certain way. The first set in a block is created. It introduces players to the block, providing glimpses into the world and its inhabitants, major mechanics, and underlying themes. After the first set gets players accustomed to this format and the rules that govern its drafting, a new set is added. This new set usually takes the major mechanics and explores the design space a little. It doesn’t reinterpret them, just simply finds more applications and homes for them. With the new set now in the mix, players take their established ideas and rules and find room for the new cards in them. Nothing is incredibly revolutionary. Occasionally, a new type of deck or color combination becomes viable that didn’t really exist previously, but often the rules are simply bent a little to make way for the new cards.
With the order of packs being reversed, things are suddenly different. You are no longer snapping up the traditional building blocks of a type of deck. Normally those would always be your first steps. The same cards that signaled for you to go a direction would still be there, just in lesser quantities. Now, the draft is a completely new animal. Knowing that the first set, the security blanket that you spent your time learning, is still coming, you can evaluate the cards by how they fit into the decks you expect to be drafting as things progress. It’s almost like you’re filling your deck before you know what it is. It can be a little intimidating when you think about it like that. It’s almost like drafting blind, picking a strategy and running with it, unsure if it will all come together.
This is how I saw things as I heard that the format for Draft was being changed. The new-set-first concept was completely foreign to me. At first, I didn’t think that much would change, but after giving things some more thought, I stumbled on the above line of thinking. To be honest, it made me a little anxious. After numerous drafts, some conversations with people at the upper echelon of the game, and a great deal more experience, I can say that I was way off base.
This change to the format is absolutely amazing. First, it keeps things fresh. This is just as important to me, as a casual drafter, as it is to the professionals. Since most of the building blocks of a set are fairly basic examples of what a mechanic or color is capable of in a given set, they function incredibly well as a multipurpose glue for decks. Previously, they formed the foundation for decks, leaving cards that came in sets after to fill in the cracks in the foundation caused by receiving less packs of the initial set. Only when the sets are reversed do you learn that these basic cards work well because they are capable of filling different roles. Ironically, being basic gives them more variety.
A good example of this from this set are the infect cards. Previously, infect cards led players to draft almost exclusively black-green. The creatures were limited in number and size, and the decks tended to be slight variations on the same general theme. With Mirrodin Besieged, the world of infect has opened greatly. It’s far more viable now to see infect decks that feature blue prominently, or even white. There are more varieties of infect creatures, which opens up many more avenues.
Knowing that the security blanket is going to be there actually helps you. You have spent the past months learning a format composed exclusively of Scars of Mirrodin. By now, you understand what cards it provides you. Knowing this, you are able to draft understanding that you can leave yourself a hole in a place that Mirrodin Besieged leaves you. You can draft those white infect creatures knowing that you’ll be able to pick up removal in Scars. You can draft those Ichor Wellsprings and Equipment knowing that your metalcraft creatures will be there. Knowing how the next set works opens up different avenues for drafting because you know that the base is going to be there.
David Humpherys, Magic Development Director
With all of this in mind, I took a moment (and an EDH deck) over to the Spellslingers Area to speak to Dave Humpherys, the Magic Development Director, and Mark Gottlieb, the lead designer for Mirrodin Besieged. After muddling my way through a meandering and incredibly difficult to decipher question, I decided to simplify things up and just ask Gottlieb whether or not designers think about the order of sets when they’re working on cards for a new set, all I got out of him was a, “Yes.”
Ask a simple question ....
After taking a minute to let the gag sink in, he elaborated.
“One thing that we as designers try to do is create ‘build around me’ cards—something flashy that will grab peoples’ attentions. We want people to be excited when they see the new cards.”
Under Rosewater’s design philosophy, the first set in a block shows the new mechanics and themes and explains how they work. The next sets show what a mechanic is capable of. It explores the design space more, making the mechanic seem fresher than the basic iterations from the first set. Now that people have gotten used to what a mechanic does and how it fits into a format, the next set is able to give cards that allow players to make more creative decisions. It encourages them to take a card and build around it. You never built around Alpha Tyrranax. You can certainly build around Fangren Marauder. The same is true for cards like Plaguemaw Beast, Brass Squire, and Spine of Ish Sah. Rather than looking at these cards and seeing a card that would fit well into a particular type of deck, these cards give the reason to draft those decks.
Now that we’ve had a little time to play around with the sets, there are a few cards that seem like their value greatly depends on whether the set is drafted first or second. The first that stuck out to me was Tine Shrike. With Mirrodin Besieged coming first, the Shrikes and their pals Priests of Norn are there from the very start. They look you in the eye and say, “You can draft white infect! You can use Scars to draft white removal and infect cards from another color!” Were they to be drafted after Scars, virtually every infect deck is already going to be black-green, leaving no room for the white Tine Shrike. Drafting black infect cards and white removal and banking on filling things up with one pack of Besieged would be a tall order.
Another card that is affected is Ichor Wellspring. In a metalcraft deck, or in a red deck built around sacrificing artifacts, the Wellspring is a pretty nice card. It doesn’t really do anything on its own, but it enables the other decks to work better while not costing, or even sometimes gaining, a card. If it were drafted second, you would already have the skeleton of that deck in place and just be looking for cards like Wellspring to fill things out. With it coming first, you would have to be considerably more speculative to draft it planning on drafting one of those decks. It’s much better as a filler card that you are actively looking for than a potential card to go in a deck that isn’t built yet.
The fact that there are cards in Mirrodin Besieged that enable new decks is one of the major upsides to the format. As Humpherys put it, “The major benefit of drafting the newer set first is that it gives you more options. It opens things up and allows for more decks to exist.” The Tine Shrike example is illustrative of this. That deck simply doesn’t exist in a format where Besieged comes last. In the second draft of the Pro Tour, Conrad Kolos drafted a proliferate deck that wouldn’t exist without the set order being what it is. The cards that you see first shape the options available to you.
Mirrodin Besieged lead designer Mark Gottlieb.
Gottlieb made an important point about Tine Shrike.
This struck me as completely nonsensical at first, but then I spent the better part of the day thinking about it. It’s probably true that Tine Shrike sees very little play if the pack order is reversed. However, it’s also true that the format exists as it is because Tine Shrike was printed in the second set. Without cards like it that push the envelope of a mechanic, the format doesn’t ever change. If the first set were too similar to the second, the order would have significantly less meaning. The fact that the differences exist is what makes the distinction between formats even possible.
Now that the intent and effects of switching the order have been examined, seeing how it actually impacts this exact format is a little easier to do. Metalcraft is a little weaker. The cards that really make the deck run, like Chrome Steed and mana Myr, are now the second and third packs. There are also less of them. There are some metalcraft enablers in Besieged, but they’re different. Now, rather than relying on a critical mass of artifact creatures, the deck keys more off of equipment to get and maintain metalcraft. The deck has less creatures than it did before, but those creatures are considerably bigger. Considering the format has slowed down a step, you have a bit more time to assemble your monster. It also means that cards that were less effective in the deck become much better as well. Cards like Sunspear Shikari and Goblin Gaveleer are now better additions to the deck. You still need to hit your critical mass of artifacts, but those cards are still worth looking at.
Infect has had a significant change as well. Now, the deck is viable in color combinations other than the traditional black-green. White has crept in, as well as blue. Proliferate is far more common now than it was before, and the cards featuring it have gotten better. It gives those infect decks a way to punch through and just win the game towards the end. Another thing that has helped in that regard is the variety of creatures. Infect used to be on fairly simple, cookie-cutter creatures. Now you have an infect Spider, a couple of new fliers, a vigilance creature, huge bodies, and creatures with utility abilities. They’re more than the mindless small bodies they once were, and that gives them a ton of versatility and power.
The “dinosaurs” archetype was a relatively new one towards the end of triple Scars draft. With the addition of Besieged, the acceleration that made them so good has gone down a touch, but there are better options all along the curve. The deck has always functioned as basically a pile of removal and large guys that don’t care about, and often don’t like, artifacts. That much hasn’t changed. There is plenty of removal in the format. There are still enormous creatures. As long as these exist, the deck will be around.
Saturday, 12:35 p.m. – Quick Question: Zenith of Zeniths
At least two of the Zeniths have their influence on the Standard format well established by now, but what about Limited, or more specifically Sealed Deck? Which one of the newest breed of X-spells is the best? Which one would you most like to open in your Sealed pool? A couple of pros were happy to chime in with their personal ranking.
"The black one might be more powerful than the red, if it ends up in your deck, but the red is just so much more likely to do so. I'd definitely rather open the red Zenith."
"It's gotta be the black Zenith. The red is very versatile, you'll probably always have it in your deck. But then again, the same is probably true for the black one as well."
"I'm not sure about black and red, though."
"The red doesn't have as much impact as the blue one. And the green … well, if you have a Viridian Corrupter or something, it's actually quite good. If not—at least it's a money rare!"
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – I Have A Dream
While Tobi was finding out what players thought of the Zeniths I had a broader remit for the players I tracked down. With the Pro Tour the focus for so many players they have been thinking primarily about drafting Mirrodin Besieged, but the Grand Prix was sealed deck. If they could open their dream packs, what rares would they have got out of Mirrodin Besieged?
“A dream pack? Man that’s tough... do you have the list I can look through?”, I passed Levy the Mirrodin Besieged players guide and the Hall of Famer began leafing through the pages while thinking aloud.
“Do I want to be poison? I’m not sure... what are the Infect rares? Yeah, ok. I think if I was poison I would take the Phyrexian trio - the Hydra, Vatmother and Crusader. Actually Inkmoth Nexus may be better than the Hydra. Pairing those up with something like Contagion Engine and Skithiryx from Scars would be good.” but then he had second thoughts.
“I’m not sure I want to be poison though... let’s be red. I’ll take the Red Sun’s Zenith, Hero of Oxid Ridge and the Sword of Feast and Famine“. That matched the sealed deck he had for this Grand Prix, which was heavily red and featured plenty of aggressive removal and direct damage.
Yuuya Watanabe & Kazuya Mitamura
I found the Japanese pair Yuuya Watanabe and Kazuya Mitamura poring over Watanabe’s deck. A blue-black Infect concoction, the conclusion they had come to was that it wasn’t very good and Watanabe was happy to dream about switching his Mirrodin Besieged rares for something better.
“Three Black Sun’s Zenith!” he exclaimed immediately, but when I explained they had to be different cards he was forced to turn to Mitamura for help.
“Massacre Wurm“, offered Mitamura, and the two players were stumped for a little while, trying to think of over good black rares before settling on an artifact that at least had some black flavor – the Sword of Feast and Famine.
Mitamura’s deck was a powerful red-white deck that featured great removal and rares, but weak creatures. Still, with Hoard-Smelter Dragon on board and a White Sun’z Zenith he couldn’t feel too bad. “I was forced to play these colors by the rares, they are too good, but the commons aren’t so good”, Mitamura offered, then he smiled “it’s still better than Yuuya’s deck though!”
A man who didn’t need much more luck was Craig Wescoe, for whom the dream may very well have come true – he was playing four bomb rares at his six mana slot, any of which could prove to be a game-winner, including three Wrath of God effects in the form of a Black Sun’s Zenith, Phyrexian Rebirth and a Sunblast Angel. Newly-crowned Player of the Year, Brad Nelson, was reviewing Wescoe’s deck when I caught up with him... Nelson’s opinion?
Well said. But even though he was living the dream Wescoe had room for improvement and given his perfect choice of Mirrodin Besieged rares he finally settled on the exact same rares the Watanabe and Mitamura had wanted in their deck – Black Sun’s Zenith, Massacre Wurm and Sword of Feast and Famine. Some people are never happy...
Feature Match – Round Four: Frank Karsten vs. Petr Brozek
You don't often find such big names paired against each other as early as round four of a Grand Prix, but as part of the Magic Weekend, the pros are all here and ready to battle. Hall of Famer Frank Karsten from the Netherlands built a red-white equipment-based deck from his Sealed pool, while Czech Petr Brozek brought an interesting white-black infect deck.
Both players opened with 2-mana noncreature artifacts on turn two, Karsten with Bladed Pinions, Brozek with Ichor Wellspring. Karsten had Training Drone on three, while Brozek summoned Rust Tick. Karsten missed a land-drop, played and activated Accorder's Shield, and attacked Brozek down to 16. Brozek himself made this 15 with Phyrexian Rager, played another land, and passed the turn. His Rust Tick prevented further attacks from Karsten's Drone and the Dutch cast Sunspear Shikari. Now it was Brozek's turn to lay some threats and he did so, impressively, with Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. Karsten cast Strandwalker, passed right back, and the infectious Dragon started to spread its poison.Frank Karsten, happy
Karsten still managed two attempts to fend off the Dragon. But his Sunspear Shikari fell victim to Brozek's Burn the Impure when he tried to attach Strandwalker to it, and then his Accorder's Shield-and-Bladed Pinions-equipped Goblin Gaveleer prompted Brozek to reveal his next rare: he regenerated Skithiryx and cast Phyrexian Rebirth. The Dragon ended it on the very next turn.
Frank Karsten 0-1 Petr Brozek
This time, Karsten went off to a quick start, with Gust Skimmer on turn two and Blisterstick Shaman on the next, killing Brozek's Plague Stinger. The Czech's Phyrexian Digester traded with Gust Skimmer, but the Dutch immediately replaced it with Training Drone. Brozek went without play, whereas Karsten cast and activated Silverskin Armor and already attacked for 7. Brozek fell to 9, cast Morbid Plunder and fell to 2.
On the next turn, however, Brozek once again cast Phyrexian Rebirth and seemed to make his comeback. Karsten, however, made Sunspear Shikari and a potentially devastating Livewire Lash. Brozek cast Plague Stinger and Priests of Norn, then had his Horror token chump-block the first-striking 4/2. Post-combat, Karsten summoned Spin Engine and moved his Lash over to the 3/1, preventing Brozek who was still at 2, from targeting it.
Brozek cast more Priests of Norn and replayed his Phyrexian Digester. Now he had enough blockers, so that Karsten couldn't simply activate his Spin Engine to push through the final damage. Instead, he equipped his Shikari and traded it for one of the Priests. He also played Goblin Gaveleer and attached his Lash to it. When, on the next turn, the Gaveleer picked up Silverskin Armor as well and thus turned into an 8-power trampler, Brozek conceded.
Frank Karsten 1-1 Petr Brozek
Game 3Petr Brozek, unhappy
For a change, this time it was Brozek who cast a whole bunch of equipments, starting with Viridian Claw, then Strider Harness. His first creature was Septic Rats one turn later, but since he didn't have a fourth land he couldn't even make good use of the Strider Harness.
Meanwhile, Karsten had amassed a small army, with Gust Skimmer, Iron Myr, and Spin Engine, but was stuck on three lands, too. His fourth, though, came just in time to have the Rats as well as the Viridian Claw turn to slag. Brozek was desperate for creatures and cast Morbid Plunder for just the Rats. Karsten on the other side of the table was happy to attack unopposed and further developed his offensive with Strandwalker. Brozek fell to 6, facing lethal damage on the next turn.
Frank Karsten 2-1 Petr Brozek
Feature Match – Round Five: Gerard Fabiano vs Robert Jurkovic
Gerard Fabiano's Magic Weekend has been a bit of a roller coaster. He missed out on Day 2 of the Pro Tour, but then teamed up with Harrison Beach and the two of them ran roughshod over the Two-Headed Giant tournament. Now he's hoping the upswing will continue here at the Grand Prix. In his way is one of last year's Team Champions, Robert Jurkovic
Fabiano frowned at his opening hand. It was literally seven lands, a mix of mountains and forests. Jurkovic was on the play, and Fabiano decided to keep. His deck seemed to agree with the decision, as he drew first Acid-Web Spider, then Blisterstick Shaman and Tangle Mantis.
Jurkovic led off with Flayer Husk and Mortarpod. Blisterstick Shaman killed the Husk germ, but Jurkovic had a Shaman of his own. Fabiano played his Mantis and passed. Jurkovic reset his Husk with Glint Hawk and held back. Fabiano hit for three, then got rid of the Husk proper with his Spider.
Jukovic was stuck on three mountains and a plains. He passed without playing a spell. Fabiano swung for six. Mortarpod blocked and sacrificed itself for damage. Jurkovic tried to rebuild with another Glint Hawk, but Fabiano had Shatter for the Mortarpod, netting a slick two-for-one.
The bad news continued when Fabiano swung in again and Jurkovic tried a double-block on the Tangle Mantis. Fabiano had Burn the Impure. Another two-for-one. He didn't even have to work for his next one. Jurkovic played out Glint Hawk Idol and Fabiano dropped Slice in Twain on it. Two turns later Jurkovic was down and out.
Fabiano 1 - Jurkovic 0
For game two, Fabiano fanned out a hand of six land and Praetor's Counsel. Jurkovic had put him on the play, and again he decided to keep, murmuring "Weird draws."
Jurkovic got on the board first with Glint Hawk Idol, and then Tumble Magnet. Burn the Impure killed the Idol. Fabiano played his fourth land and passed. Jurkovic simply added Heavy Arbalest to his board and passed it back.
Fabiano continued to play lands. A turn later he was able to Genesis Wave for three, putting Shatter, Acid-Web Spider and Tangle Hulk into his graveyard for later. Jurkovic got out an Accorder Paladin, but Fabiano had Blisterstick Shaman. He also added Gold Myr to the table. All Jurkovic could contribute was a Flayer Husk.
Fabiano swung in for two, then tapped eight mana and got back all his goodies with Praetor's Council. Jurkovic had a wealth of lands, but nothing much to do with them. He gave his Husk an Arbalest. Fabiano again tapped a ton of mana, this time for a Genesis Wave for six. It flipped up three lands, Viridian Emissary, Kuldotha Flamefiend and a Plague Myr, quickly sacrificed. Jurkovic lost his Husk germ and took three, but not before killing the Shaman.
Jurkovic found a Saberclaw Golem waiting for him, but he also knew of the Burn the Impure in Fabiano's hand, so he didn't bother celebrating. Fabiano brought down Quilled Slagwurm, and his overwhelming advantage didn't take long to seal the match.
Gerard Fabiano defeats Robert Jurkovic 2-0
Feature Match – Round Five: Kamiel Cornelissen (NED) vs Petr Nahodil (CZE)
By the time a Grand Prix reaches the fifth round the wheat is beginning to be sorted from the chaff – among the players on a 4-0 record even the Pro Players who entered with three byes have had to eke out a win against a tough opponent. The Magic Weekend in Paris has not thrown up no shortage of tough opponents either, with a field illuminated by some of the greatest players the game has ever seen. Comfortably within that bracket is the Dutch Hall of Famer Kamiel Cornelissen, back in the spotlight after a couple of years away from the game. His opponent was fellow heavyweight Petr Nahodil, by his own right a serial Grand Prix Top 8er and three time, three time, three time Czech National Champion.
Starting out on the play Kamiel Cornelissen deployed an Auriok Sunchase and Palladium Myr, while Nahodil found a Riddlesmith and Darksteel Myr. The Dutch Hall of Famer's decision to trade his Palladium Myr for Nahodil's Riddelsmith seemed a little strange until he revealed a Razor Hippogriff and returned the Myr to hand. Across the table Nahodil further built up his forces with a Bladed Sentinel and a Strandwalker, while Cornelissen responded with a Tumble Magnet and the return of his Palladium Myr to the battlefield. Six turns in and only a single damage had been dealt by either player!
Petr Nahodil was the first to attempt to break the stalemate – he called Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas to his side and used his planeswalker ally to transform his 0/1 Darksteel Myr into a more troublesome 5/5. Cornelissen was disobliged to block the Bladed Sentinel (understandably) and took 5 damage to drop to 18. When the Dutchman tried to attack Tezzeret on the next turn Nahodil had a Go for the Throat on hand to shoot down the incoming Razor Hippogriff. Undaunted, Cornelissen dropped a Corrupted Conscience onto Nahodil's deadly Darksteel Myr, neatly turning the tables on his opponent.
Despite now being faced by his own creation Nahodil passed his next turn, only using it to boost his Bladed Sentinel into a 5/5 with Tezzeret. The board position swung even further in Kamiel Cornelissen's favor on his next turn when a Chrome Steed and Glint Hawk Idol joined his assault and he was finally able to remove Tezzeret from the board with an attack. The Dutchman now seemed in control – he had five creatures and a Tumble Magnet to his opponent's two creatures on board, it had been a perfect counterattack.
Nahodil desperately needed gas, and a Blue Sun's Zenith at the end of Cornelissen's turn topped him up on cards... the question was if it had helped or not? A Plated Seastrider and Decimator Web didn't seem like the answers he could have been hoping for in the face of Cornelissen's automated army and they were soon brushed aside. Having at least bought another turn Nahodil was handed a last chance, but all he could find was an Ichorclaw Myr. One Arrest later (just to be sure) Cornelissen wrapped up the first game.
Kamiel Cornelissen 1 – 0 Petr Nahodil
If the first game had begun slowly, the second was a flurry of metal and blood, with Cornelissen displaying an aggressive side to his blue-white deck – Myr Sire, Auriok Sunchaser, Sunspear Shikari and an Argent Sphinx made for quite an army! Across the table, Petr Nahodil could only hide behind his Darksteel Myr and try to draw more defenders. A Peace Strider and Strandwalker secured the ground, but as Cornelissen added a Tumble Magnet and Flayer Husk to the battlefield his Auriok Sunchaser's Metalcraft kicked in and it joined the Argent Sphinx in taking the fight to the air. The first wave dropped Nahodil to 13 life, the second to just 5 life and the brink of defeat!
This had all taken just a few minutes to unfold, but Nahodil bought a few more with a Quicksilver Geyser, throwing Cornelissen's flyers back. The Czech pro used the time to drop a couple more blockers, including a key Snapsail Glider that would allow him to block Cornelissen's incoming airforce.
At least that had been the plan, but the Dutchman revealed his Corrupted Conscience again, taking the Snapsail Glider, and with his only flyer turned traitor Nahodil was once again defenceless. It was all over.
Kamiel Cornelissen 2 – 0 Petr Nahodil
The players had been cool and professional with each other throughout the match, but as the result was decided the two relaxed their guards a little.
"Did you have any bombs?" asked Cornelissen, perhaps feeling that his wins had been a little too straight forward and Nahodil had been unlucky.
"No, not really," replied Nahodil, "only what you saw in the first game, Tezzeret and the Zenith." he fanned his cards out a little, "When you won the first game with Corrupted Conscience I sideboarded in Sylvok Replica and some Forests but..." the Czech pro shrugged, having said everything that needed saying – his sideboard hadn't appeared in time, and both players understood that Nahodil had simply been outgunned.
Feature – Kibler's Keys to the Format
I took a minute to pick the brain of a thoroughly jet-lagged Brian Kibler about the new sealed deck format featuring Mirrodin Besieged.
Looking back at all-Scars Sealed, it was largely defined by its powerful cards. In most sealed pools, you wanted to build a deck that maximized the effectiveness of your best cards. Many of the bombs lent themselves naturally to slow, controlling games. Decks that steered their games in that direction would find the most success with them. Would that change with the addition of Besieged?
Kibler's first instinct was to say "Not really," but then, as often happens with Kibler, his train of thought started rolling. Here's what he said.
Having a plan is even more important with Beseiged in the mix. It's no longer enough to simply maximize your most powerful cards. There's enough of a power disparity among the rares that sometimes you can't simply play for the long game. You'll win the games where you draw your bombs and they don't, but you'll lose any of the games where their bombs trump yours.
The alternative is to prey on those who take the long view. The new set offers a lot of tools for aggressive builds, allowing you to topple more powerful decks before they can get to their most powerful spells.
There's one other important consideration. With three packs of a small set, there are more removal spells floating around, and in particular Spread the Sickness. It's a common removal spell that handles bomb creatures with ease. Things like Hoard-Smelter Dragon aren't as hard to handle as they once were. Another consequence of this is that a lot of matches will come down to attrition. This puts card advantage at a premium.
As an example, Kibler pointed to Matt Nass, who is splashing Vivisection in his deck. "Not only is it good," said Kibler, "I'm pretty sure it's correct."
Feature – Full Artistry
We have a colossal number of players here at Magic Weekend Paris. Whatever your format, there is a game for you here. If you are looking to acquire hard to find cards, there are enough traders around that just about every card printed can be found if you look hard enough.
For some, the attraction of Magic is its artwork. The queues to see French artists Alexi Briclot and Veronique Meignaud have been even longer than some of the event queues. Then there are people for whom interest in Magic art goes beyond regarding their favourite card images. For some, seeing a good piece of artwork is inspiration to create.
Two such artists are 'Chili Pepper' and 'Sandreline', who are here this weekend showing off some of their incredible card alterations. These two ladies have prodigious talent in a whole variety of different types of card alteration, from full art extensions of cards, to fan art versions featuring popular film or comic-book characters.
Sandreline, whose website (www.sandreline.com) shows some of her galleries, even created something a little special just for Magic Weekend Paris. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has held the fate of many in his hands, but never before an entire city…
I'll admit, I'm a fan. For those of you that are too, here's a few more choice cards to look at by Sandreline and Chili Pepper.
Vintage Deck Tech – Unfair Bears
"Can I borrow a vintage deck?"
This is not the sort of question that is easy to answer, unless you want to do one of the following
a) Just say no
b) Lend out a lot of very hard to come by cards
c) Lend someone a deck from another format, and chuckle a little bit
Now I am not the sort of person that likes to just say no, or shank people with a deck that isn't right for the format they are playing in. Given that I don't actually have a Vintage deck right now though, I had to improvise. Without cards to lend out, or contacts on this occasion to make some sort of arrangement, I opted to feign deafness and run away (a much overlooked tactic when it comes to difficult questions.)
The person that asked me was Phil Dickinson, an English player who, in between being a classically trained pianist and wearing hats at jaunty angles, plays a mean game of Magic. In the absence of being able to borrow any copies of Black Lotus, Mishra's Workshop or Ancestral Recall, he was forced to improvise. His backup plan was one that relied on the much maligned workhorses of every other format… creatures that attack for two.
The reasoning went as follows: if everyone else is playing a threat light deck, with lots of powerful artifacts, wacky mana bases and a lot of search, he would pick a deck that could prey on each of those areas.
Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor are a great start in this plan. They stop that searching, while getting stuck in for attacks. If players are using fetchlands (which, let us face it, they are), then these two will also put a hurt on mana bases. With a full set of Wasteland, Strip Mine and four copies of Ghost Quarter, there is every opportunity to play heavy mana denial. If people can't search their deck, then Ghost Quarter is simply another Strip Mine.
What about win conditions? With many decks opting to win with Tinker for Blightsteel Colossus, dropping down hard on search effects again prove ineffective. Phil liked to make sure though, with Phyrexian Revoker to make life harder for Time Vault plans, and Ethersworn Canonist against storm options. All of these disrupt, and they all attack for two.
Kataki, War's Wage is just the beginning of an anti-artifact plan that also includes Nature's Claim and Qasali Pridemage. As I'm sure you can tell, this deck really is one that allowed Phil to distill his disdain for the harder to acquire cards in the format into one unpleasant cocktail.
The most active ingredient in making this whole deck work is Aether Vial. With the vial, there were a number of plays over the course of the day that helped him trump all manner of plans. Putting Leonin Arbiter into play at the right moment is a great way to stop a Tinker or fetchland from doing much. Putting in an Ethersworn Canonist after a Timetwister is pretty nifty too.
If you put everything together for the deck, it presents a very hard to deal with package. There is every likelihood that against a Standard deck, this wouldn't be a problem, but these bears form a metagame razor for Vintage unlike any other.
Phil looked a lot happier when I saw him at the end of the day, Mox Sapphire in hand.
"So you found some power then?"
"No, I won it."I traded in some bulk rares for a deck, then won this.
For those of you looking to win some yourself, here is the list that he used:
Feature Match Round 6 – David Ochoa vs. Daniel Gräfensteiner
David Ochoa has two Grand Prix Top 8s under his belt so far, and is looking to increase that count by one this weekend. His opponent's resume lists none so far, but features a Top 8 performance at Pro Tour–San Diego last year. Both are still undefeated after five rounds of Sealed, soon only one will be.
Game 1David Ochoa
Ochoa won the die-roll and chose to draw first. So when Gräfensteiner mulliganed his first two hands, Ochoa had three more cards on his first turn than Gräfensteiner on his. This would surely be an uphill battle for the German. Or would it? At first, Ochoa couldn't really capitalize on his advantage: his Viridian Emissary and Wall of Tanglecord didn't make for an impressive clock, and Gräfensteiner had good cards too: Livewire Lash and Blightwidow teamed up to make a rather impressive 4/4 infecter.
But then Ochoa made Mimic Vat and when Gräfensteiner attacked, blocked and imprinted his Viridian Emissary. For the time being, that put a stop to Gräfensteiner's attacks. He summoned an Ichorclaw Myr, Ochoa another Wall of Tanglecord. His card advantage began to show as he first cast an Ogre Resister, then Spine of Ish Sah (killing Blightwidow), then Tangle Mantis, all the while Gräfensteiner just cast one spell: Plaguemaw Beast. Beast and Ichorclaw Myr proved to be no match for Ochoa's creatures and his steady stream of Viridian Emissary tokens.
David Ochoa 1-0 Daniel Gräfensteiner
Game 2Daniel Gräfensteiner
The second game went without mulligans and Gräfensteiner came out of the gate fast with Ichorclaw Myr and Livewire Lash, while Ochoa had no turn-two play at all. His Viridian Corrupter, however, managed to recoup some of the tempo, and his Oxidda Scrapmelter turned things around for good.
Things looked bleak for Gräfensteiner when the best four-drop he could muster turned out to be Tel-Jilad Fallen. This Fallen traded with the Scrapmelter and was replaced by another. Ochoa cast Gnathosaur, Gräfensteiner cast Sylvok Replica.
Nothing much happened for a couple of turns and then Red Sun's Zenith from Ochoa killed Tel-Jilad Fallen, which was the only blocker that had kept his Gnathosaur and Viridian Corrupter from attacking. Finally, the 5/4 and poisonous 2/2 attacked, while all that remained on Gräfensteiner's side was one lonely Sylvok Replica.
This Replica was killed by Ochoa's own Sylvok Replica on his next turn, and his creatures attacked again. Next, Gräfensteiner put Scourge Servant in the way of Ochoa's creatures, but he swiftly destroyed it via Spine of Ish Sah. Gräfensteiner extended his hand in concession.
David Ochoa 2-0 Daniel Gräfensteiner
Feature Match Round 6: "Goblin Shaman-igans" – Matt Nass vs. Gaudenis Vidugiris (Sealed)
Both these Americans have had major Grand Prix success in the last sixteen months. Wisconsinite-by-way-of-Lithuania Gaudenis Vidugiris took down Grand Prix Tampa and the young Californian, Matt Nass, dominated Grand Prix Oakland last year. Nass' Sealed deck has some great removal and bombs. Whereas Vidugiris has to stretch his colors to play the only removal available to him. He's mostly mono-white, but splashed black for Spread the Sickness and a Moriok Replica, and red for a Shatter or two.
Nass won the roll and made Vidugiris play. Mountains, Plains and Perilous Myrs from both players, but a Culling Dais trick allowed Vidugiris to wipe the board and get the Dais to one counter, though he sunk to 18 in the process. The board was soon Myr-ed once again and Vidugiris' Palladium Myr was being attacked by two Master's Call tokens.
While figuring out whether or not to block, Gaudenis considered Blisterstick Shaman and asked for an Oracle wording to make sure it could hit both creatures and players. Neither combatant seemed to remember the name of the card, so it took a while to explain to a judge the abilities and so forth. After everything was worked out, Matt asked once more to clarify the wording on the card. However, his question was just a clever ploy; he'd been holding the Shaman the whole time. Gaudenis spider-sensed his opponent's hand and thought it best to not block with his Myr, dropping to 16.
On Spiderman's next turn, he played and immediately sacrificed a Precursor Golem to bump the Dais up to two counters and to net a couple 3/3 Golems. The colorless automata soon attacked but Nass was more than happy to block with a Myr token and his new Clone Shell. And when the Shell binned, a Victory's Herald was revealed. Boo-urns for Vidugiris. The Angel and the remaining Myr attacked next turn making the life totals 11-25 in Matt Nass' favor. The tides continued to swell for the Californian as he laid down a Thopter Assembly before passing the turn back.
Vidugiris had the big-mana myr, a Moriok Replica and an Etched Champion, which in most cases would be a solid board position. He even cast Shatter on the Assembly and laid down a Razorfield Rhino, but Nass continued to tip the scales to 6-26 his next turn. He laid a protective Perilous Myr and passed back to the Wisconsinite who had nothing to stop the assault. He scooped up and moved to Game 2.
Matt Nass 1, Gaudenis Vidugiris 0
It's been almost a year to the day since Matt Nass took a commanding victory at Grand Prix Oakland, and if things continue to look good this tournament, maybe he'll be making this an annual event.
Vidugiris chose to play this game, and again Mountains and Plains faced one another for the first few turns. Vidugiris broke the land mirror by laying a down a Swamp, and tapped out to make a Peace Strider. Nass cast another end-of-turn Master's Call and followed with a Tempered Steel and an attack. Vidugiris sunk to 17 before evening the totals up with a Strider attack of his own. His post-combat Perilous Myr was quickly knocked out of play by an end-of-turn Galvanic Blast – but the peril couldn't even take out a Myr thanks to the +2/+2-granting enchantment. Nass then dropped his opponent to 11 with his 3/3 Myrs and cast a Neurok Replica.
Gaudenis looked at the sorry state of the board and just shook his head. He tapped out to Spread the Sickness to Matt's Replica, but more end-of-turn tricks – this time a Shatter – left Gaudenis boardless. Though he technically didn't lose on the next attack, when Matt tapped out to cast the second Thopter Assembly of the match, Gaudenis knew it was over.
Matt Nass 2, Gaudenis Vidugiris 0
Feature Match Round 7: "Mori than he Bargained For" – Tim Bulger vs. Katsuhiro Mori
Mori lost the die roll, and Bulger put him on the play. Both players started off with mana Myr off of their Mountain and Plains. Mori didn't have a third land and simply cast a Culling Dais on his turn. Bulger, on the other hand, kept on trucking, adding a Pierce Strider and a Rusted Slasher to his team on consecutive turns. Despite being stuck on two lands, Mori made the best of it. He added a Livewire Lash and a Myr Sire to his team. When Bulger went for an Accorder's Shield before attacking, Mori Crushed it, forcing Bulger to sacrifice it to put a regeneration shield on his Slasher. Despite losing his equipment, Bulger went on the offensive. Rusted Slasher and Pierce Strider swung over at the Japanese player. Mori stuck his Myr Sire in the way of the Slasher and sacrificed it to add a counter to his Dais.Tim Bulger
By now, Mori was in serious need of another land. Bulger had added a Palladium Myr and a Liquimetal Coating to his side and attacked with his other creatures, forcing Mori to a decision. Now Bulger could sacrifice any of his permanents to his Slasher to keep it alive. Again, he just stuck his Myr token in the way and sacrificed it to his Dais. At the end of Bulger's turn, he sacrificed the Dais to find himself something to get him unstuck. First, he found himself a land. That enabled him to cast a Skinwing, which traded almost immediately with the Palladium Myr on Bulger's side. After that, he had another land, enabling him to cast two creatures to jump in the way of Bulger's marauding team. Unfortunately for Mori, Bulger was continuing to build his forces as well. After two more turns of trying to crawl in, and facing the inevitability of the Rusted Slasher, Mori conceded.
Tim Bulger 1 – Katsuhiro Mori 0
For the second game, Mori returned the favor and forced Bulger to go first. Bulger didn't like his opening draw, opting to send it back for a far superior six. He opened on the second turn with a Silver Myr, which Mori matched with a Goblin Wardriver. Bulger set up his all-star from the previous game, the Rusted Slasher, to follow the Myr. Mori put him in a bit of a bind with a Blisterstick Shaman, killing off the Myr, which Bulger sacrificed to his Slasher. The next couple of turns were simply board shaping for the two players. Bulger added Plague and Palladium Myrs to his team while more added an Ogre Resister and a Peace Strider.Katsuhiro Mori
Then, all of a sudden, the game came to a head. Mori calmly tapped five mana and dropped a Contagion Engine onto the table. -1/-1 counters went everywhere, reducing Bulger's board to a 1/1 Paladium Myr. Mori then sent his team. Bolstered by the Wardriver's battle cry, it was a fourteen point swing. Bulger animate his Inkmoth Nexus and stuck it in the way of the Resister, soaking up five of the incoming damage. He conceded to Mori's dominating board position after looking at one more card.
Tim Bulger 1 – Katsuhiro Mori 1
Mori started the final game off with a second-turn Leonin Skyhunter. Bulger had a Plague Myr on his turn, but Mori dismissed it easily with a Shatter. Mori's Ogre Resister returned for another game on the following turn. This was proving to be quite the aggressive draw from Mori. It wasn't quite as good as the last, but then again, he had more removal this time around, and Bulger less threats. Bulger attempted to stick a Palladium Myr, but a Burn the Impure pushed it out of the way before it could stand before his attackers. When Mori removed Bulger's next attempt to provide a blocker, too, Bulger conceded.
Tim Bulger 1 – Katsuhiro Mori 2
Feature Match Round 7 – Kai Budde vs. Jason Ascalon
Kai Budde needs no introduction, although it should be mentioned that despite originally not liking his deck he was now 6-0 and able to clinch an early day-two berth. His opponent from the Philippines, Jason Ascalon, already narrowly missed out on day two of the Pro Tour (with 4-3-1) and surely didn't want to repeat this feat at the Grand Prix either.
Budde started the beatdown with Flayer Husk and Snapsail Glider, whereas Ascalon had no more plays after his turn-one Sylvok Lifestaff, until he summoned Dross Ripper on his fourth. Meanwhile, Budde was stuck on three lands and made a Tumble Magnet.Kai Budde
On turn five, Ascalon summoned and equipped Chrome Steed. Finally, Budde drew a fourth land, his second Plains, which allowed him to cast Leonin Skyhunter. Ascalon made Bleak Coven Vampires, but in response a Galvanic Blast from Budde robbed him of his Dross Ripper, and thus, of metalcraft.
Once again Budde attacked and another Galvanic Blast dealt the last points of damage.
Kai Budde 1-0 Jason Ascalon
Ascalon chose to draw first, but had the first creature in Leonin Skyhunter, followed by Iron Myr, while Budde made rather good use of playing first, with Spin Engine and Ogre Resister. Leonin Skyhunter attacked for the second time and Pierce Strider brought Budde down to 13.
On the counter-attack, the Strider traded with Ogre Resister and Ascalon went down to 14. Budde kept up the pressure, casting Kuldotha Ringleader. Ascalon just made another Myr and didn't dare attack anymore.
Budde simply attacked with his Ringleader all alone (Ascalon: 10) and cast Victory's Herald, which was promptly relieved of its heralding duties by Ascalon's Turn to Slag. Budde, however, had more: He made Myr Turbine and Flayer Husk, and Ascalon fought back with a living weapon of his own, and a sizeable one at that: Bonehoard, which was currently 4/4.Jason Ascalon
End of turn Budde got a token off Myr Turbine, and the following turn, he cast Cerebral Eruption. Only revealing a land, he made a face, then equipped his Kuldotha Ringleader with Flayer Husk and attacked with everything. Everything else died, but the Ringleader remained and brought Ascalon down to 5. Ascalon's Bonehoard grew to 6/6 in the process.
Afraid of the Cerebral Eruption that would be replayed next, Ascalon decided to not summon any more creatures, and was now hiding behind a Myr, a Leonin Skyhunter, and his Bonehoard. Budde made another token at end of turn via Myr Turbine. Then his Eruption revealed Nim Deathmantle, killing Skyhunter and Myr. Ascalon, now at 3, was left with one blocker, while Budde had two: the token and Kuldotha Ringleader. He equipped his 1/1 token with Flayer Husk and thanks to battle cry it grew to lethal proportions.
Kai Budde 2-0 Jason Ascalon
Saturday, 7:35 p.m. - A Double Perspective on the Weekend
Christian Gawrilowicz from Austria is one of the many judges who work today to make sure that the Grand Prix runs as smoothly as it does. And he has a very unique perspective on the Magic Weekened because he knows both sides: today, he might be a judge, but the last two days he was actually playing in the Pro Tour. He also is the reigning Austrian national champion.
"I think, the idea of combining a Pro Tour with a Grand Prix is just great," he said about the Magic Weekend. "Sometimes people say, 'Oh, the Pro Tour, that's only for the pros,' which is absolutely not true, of course. But despite all the public events, people who are not qualified often don't go to Pro Tours. Now here in Paris, there really is something for every type of player and with the GP we even have a big event that's open to everyone. This really communicates that it's definitely 'not only for the pros.'"
When asked about his experience in the Pro Tour, he said: "The Pro Tour was a lot of fun. A really relaxed atmosphere and very nice opponents. My personal highlight, apart from making day two, were my last two rounds against Brian Kibler and Olle Rade. Now, I'm 1-1 against Hall of Famers."
"I normally go to the big tournaments as a judge and a lot of people were surprised to see me actually playing. Two days ago, lots people asked me in disbelief, 'What, you're playing?' Today, they asked, 'What, you're judging?'"
So, from a judge perspective, is this event any different compared to a normal European Grand Prix? Does the enormous number of players make it more difficult?
"The number of players isn't this different from a normal Euro GP, especially since we split the tournament into three parts. Really, the organization is extremely good," Christian explained. "The main difference are the many non-European players. I even could use my Japanese skills today, which is rather unusual for a Grand Prix, because those Japanese players who travel to all the GPs are actually pretty good at English."
"Also, the number of international judges makes this GP very special," he added. "The exchange of different ideas from all over the world is very important to the judge community, and of course, it's nice to meet one's fellow judges from far far way."
Feature Match Round 8 – David Sharfman vs. Yuuya Watanabe
You may remember that I spoke to Yuuya Watanabe about his deck briefly, way back around round two while he was still waiting to enter the fray after his three byes. He wasn't happy with the blue-black Infect deck he had crafted, and it seemed rightly so. But perhaps he had been doing himself a disservice as it doesn't seem to have been any hurdle to him achieving a stellar 6-0 record and going into round seven unbeaten. The deck that couldn't win had turned into the deck that couldn't lose!
In his way was the American pro David Sharfman – it doesn't seem like anybody is getting cut a break at this event, it seems as though everywhere you turn there are top pros cutting up the field.David Sharfman
Sharfman began the game with a Myr Sire and followed it with the ever-dependable Phyrexian Rager and a Rusted Slasher. While Sharfman was busy playing Mirrodin Besieged cards Watanabe was all about Scars of Mirrodin – a Plague Stinger and Painsmith threatened to make for some swift poison counters, while Perilous Myr offered some defenses. Watanabe's flying attack rapidly put Sharfman up to 5 poison counters as he found artifacts to play and trigger the Painsmith.
Sharfman attacked, but found himself trading down 2-1 against the Perilous Myr and had to clear the board away a turn later with a Slagstorm, after having his Burn the Impure countered by a Stoic Rebuttal. It was just a hiccup for Watanabe, though, and he put his foot back on the gas immediately to deal yet more poison with a Core Prowler before finishing the game with the Proliferate effect of Spread the Sickness.
Sharfman 0 – 1 Watanabe
David Sharfman must have breathed a sigh of relief when the two lands Watanabe tapped on his second turn only funded a Silver Myr – the Plague Stinger that had arrived on turn two in the last game had been pretty much fatal for the American! Sharfman took the opportunity to establish his defences against the Phyrexian onslaught with a Wall of Tanglecord, Blistergrub, and a Trigon of Corruption.
Watanabe was finding it hard to find his feet – the Trigon killed his Silver Myr and although he found a Sangromancer it was immediately toasted by a Burn The Impure. The only thing that the Japanese pro could stick in play was a Strandwalker, and that wasn't getting past Wall of Tanglecord anytime soon. It was time for Sharfman to make his move – a Kuldotha Phoenix roared from his hand and into the red zone. Watanabe winced at the sight, he had a Spread the Sickness, and used it, but he knew the Phoenix would be back.
The Japanese pro's best hope now was to be able to race the Phoenix somehow, and he threw down a Flesh-Eater Imp. The Imp was a real threat, just as the Sangromancer had been, but it also met with the same fate – a second Burn The Impure shot it down, and singed Watanabe a little into the bargain. It was enough for Sharfman to take the game, as he called the Phoenix back from the graveyard to level the match.
Sharfman 1 – 1 Watanabe
The deciding game began cautiously for both players, each choosing to stick a Perilous Myr and then bash the tiny ticking bombs into each other. That was a trade that perhaps suited Sharfman more than it did Watanabe – if the Japanese player's plan was to deal poison then the two damage dealt by the Myr was useless to him.
The follow-up wave from Sharfman brought more bad news in the unlikely (or at least unlikely to be good) form a Blistergrub, although Watanabe had reason to fear the Swampwalk. The American ducked behind a Wall of Tanglecord and began swinging with his Blistergrub, slowly whittling down Watanabe's life total. The Japanese pro began filling his side of the battlefield with creatures – Riddlesmith, Dross Ripper, a second Perilous Myr, and finally a Flesh-Eater Imp. The Imp survived long enough to devour Watanabe's Perilous Myr and remove the Blistergrub as a threat, but was immediately taken out by Sharfman's Skinrender. In a game of tactical movements it wasn't clear who had the lead – the life totals stood at 12 apiece and while Watanabe had more creatures in play Sharfman was pretty secure behind his Wall and Skinrender.Yuuya Watanabe
A Vedalken Anatomist threatened to turn the game in Watanabe's favor, allowing him to begin controlling Sharfman's creatures. The American attempted to deploy a Trigon of Corruption and return the favor, but a Stopic Rebuttal kept the artifact off the table – had that been a crucial play? No – as soon as the Japanese player tried to exert his advantage Sharfman unleashed a a Slagstorm and swept the board clear, leaving himself a Wall of Tanglecord to block Watanabe's Strandwalker.
Watanabe searched for the win – a Sangromancer hit play, but was once again immediately burnt to a crisp – he turned to a Barbed Battlegrar, making his Strandwalker too strong for Sharfman's Wall of Tanglecord and struck home – the scores were now 5-10 in Watanabe's favor.
Watanabe drew gas of his own – a Corrupted Conscience that took the Kuldotha Phoenix back, unfortunately for Watanabe the Conscience gave the Phoenix Infect. Normally that would fit Watanabe's deck well, but with Sharfman down to 5 life it was actually a curse. The Phoenix attacked to deal out it's poison, but it meant the American had another turn to find an answer, and Watanabe shored up his defences with a Spire Serpent.
It was back on Sharfman's turn, and despite his big fightback last turn the American was backed up against the wall yet again but STILL he was swinging, and he played a Tower of Calamities with 8 mana untapped to activate it!s
It seemed like the window was closing on Watanabe's chances – his only hope was to find an artifact and activate Metalcraft on his Spire Serpent. If that could attack he would have put Sharfman between a rock and a hard place with no escape. If it couldn't? Then there was no hard place and Sharfman was about to take his rock back.
The match had come down to this... one draw phase... did Watanabe have an artifact to play, or didn't he?
Sharfman 1 – 2 Watanabe
Feature Match Round 8: "See This Guy's Draws?" – Gerard Fabiano vs. Thomas Nagy (Sealed)
Nagy led with a Plague Myr and accelerated into a Trigon of Rage and an Ichorclaw Myr on turn three. Fabiano also cast three cards in three turns with a Viridian Emissary, Wall of Tanglecord and an unequipped Sylvok Lifestaff. A Strider Harness came down for the German and he sent it in attached to the Ichorclaw. Fabiano gained a land after blocking with Emissary and suited up a Gold Myr with Lifestaff his next turn.
The creature was a good target for Nagy's Virulent Wound and though Fabiano gained three life, it looked like he was also going to gain a crazy amount of poison counters on the next attack. However, a timely Shatter took down the Ichorclaw, wasted a Rage counter and allowed Fabiano to calmly cast Gold Myr number 2, then use Kuldotha Flamefiend (sacrificing the wall) to sweep the remaining infectors.
Grasp of Darkness on the Flamefiend and a Corpse Cur for Nagy. And before long, the re-cast, Strider-Harnassed Ichorclaw joined the Cur in combat. When the Trigon dropped down to 0 counters, Fabiano dripped up to 9 poison and Nagy was still sitting comfortably at 18 life.
Quilled Slagwurm was Fabiano's guy to go the distance, but it already showed the scars of battle in the form of two -1/-1 counters. Fab sent it in taking Nagy to 12. He wasn't too worried; he was sitting on Crush and Burn the Impure. Nagy's Vatmother dropped with an "Oomph!" onto the table and promptly picked up the haste-giving harness.
"Not so fast. Back up, back up," Gerard instructed and quickly threw his Crush in the bin after pointing it briskly at the Harness.
"Wait, what is that?" Nagy asked. The lights were very reflective on the cards and Fabiano was tossing them around with disregard.
"It's kill an artifact, mill 12 cards and lose 15 life."
Nagy smirked and got quilled to 6 life. His Vatmother was blocked by a Necropede and his Ichorclaw Myr with Golden Myr. Necropede's graveyard trigger took down the Ichorclaw once it ceased to be so big.
Fabiano vacillated for a moment on his turn, then shrugged and attacked. He knew his Burn the Impure would be the killing strike, and if his opponent hadn't killed the Slagwurm yet, surely he didn't have the removal.
Nagy flashed Go for the Throat.
"Another good draw," Gerard quipped. Vatmother ended it the next turn.
Thomas Nagy 1, Gerard Fabiano 0
"See this guy's draws?" Fabiano baited to an audience member. He then turned to Nagy. "What'd you feel like when you drew that? Like you'd won the lottery?" He grinned in a way that only he can. "Yeah? Did ya?"
Fabiano chose to draw. Nagy again had the Plague Myr, this time it came in as an attacker after killing off Fabiano's own Myr with a Virulent Wound. The German followed with a Trigon of Rage and a Strider Harness the next turn.Thomas Nagy
"All right." Fabiano said as he shook his head in disbelief – pretty consistent. However, the storm calmed a bit when the Jersey native cast Burn the Impure on the mana myr, then down came his Molder Beast and soon he sent it rumbling into the red zone.
Nagy blocked with a Sylvok Replica (with Harness), and used a Trigon counter to trade with the mighty beast. Gerard didn't mind; after that, he showed his real threat: Golem Artisan. The creature made the totals 2 poison to 10, and then 5 on the following turn.
Nagy's Fume Spitter and Rot Wolf weren't doing the job against a dude that could not only give himself flying, but pump himself as well. Nagy tried to feign tricks on the next attack, but Fabiano was unimpressed. He instead took the opportunity to make his opponent flinch while tapping his lands jaggedly and jarringly, looking a bit like a DJ, to sending the flying Golem in for the win.
Thomas Nagy 1, Gerard Fabiano 1
I love it when G-Fab is silent. It reveals the rarely shown actual level of seriousness with which he treats the game. He furrows his brow, and intently and forcefully shuffles, readying himself for the rubber game.
"Ah! Why would you mulligan? It's so bad!" Gerard asked his opponent. "Ok. Me too." He can't stay silent for too long…
Fabiano was happy with his six, but Nagy went down to five. He was also on the play. Ichorclaw Myr turn two then Necrogen Scudder turn three wasn't too shabby for a double-mulligan, but Fabiano quickly cast Blisterstick Shaman to take out the Myr and sent his Necropede into Nagy's head.Gerard Fabiano, the Fabsinator
An attack and a Phyrexian Rager later for Nagy and the scores were 14-14 (Necrogen Scudder's pretty stellar when there are no flyers on the opposing side). Then Nagy laid the Sylvok Replica before getting in there again with the Necrogen Scudder.
Fabiano cast his third card of the game on turn six in the form of a Viridian Emissary, which was not a creature that could block Necrogen Scudder. However, the next turn's Golem Artisan could. Sadly for the Gerard Fabiano Fan Club, a Virulent Wound dashed the Artisan's hopes of stopping the Horror, and at 8 life Fabiano would have to find an answer fast. He cast a Quilled Slagwurn before his opponent made the totals 5-14.
The Wurm crashed in along with a Necropede after Fabiano stopped and counted up his land. Not too obvious, but obvious enough.
"I don't think you have the Untamed Might," Nagy pried. He blocked with a Rager and a Myr. When the Necropede binned, it slowed the Necrogen Scudder to a 2/2, so it only took G-Fab to 3 the next turn. Nagy had the Mirran Mettle in his hand, but seemed hesitant from all Fabiano's mana counting. Fabs didn't actually have the answer, he didn't really have anything. But if he could fake it long enough, he might just be able to draw it. He was sitting on a Slice in Twain for just a little extra digging in emergencies.
The Quilled one made a chump-blocker out of the Rager, as Nagy's defenses slowly whittled away. On the attack step, Nagy used the Mirran Mettle to make his attacker lethal if it hit. Fabiano cast the Slice in Twain in response to try to find the Burn the Impure he was looking for, but it wasn't there and he died with a land in his hand.
Guess where the game-saving burn spell was, folks? That's right; it was the next card.
Thomas Nagy 2, Gerard Fabiano 1
Feature – Rising to the Top
During round eight, if the view from the top tables showed us anything, it's that Scars of Mirrodin Sealed is a robust and varied format. At the top six tables of the green flight, there were six color combinations represented, all in a fairly even spread. UR was representative leader, with three players. The decks shared many cards, and definitely shared a theme. Considering the way the format has tended to slow down and foster longer games, the UR decks I saw were packed full of removal and card drawing, intending to use a long-term, card advantage-based approach to the game. Card advantage is key in this format, and cards like Vivisection, Arc Trail, and Blisterstick Shaman were everywhere.
Next up was a wide band of decks. The first, BR, runs a very similar strategy to the UR decks. In these decks, the black spells they have access to increase the amount of removal in the decks. While the black cards don't provide the same raw card drawing as their blue counterparts, they make up for it in their ability to gain card advantage through attrition. Cards like Oxidda Scrapmelter, Skinrender, and Perilous Myr get to serve double duty thanks to Morbid Plunder in these decks, generally keeping the game under control as they send one or two creatures over at a time to poke through for the win.
RG had a couple of players who chose to go with it. Similar to the BR decks, they take advantage of the fact that green actually has pretty solid removal in this format to replace the black cards. While they don't get to really play the long-term attrition battle that the BR decks do, they have something just as good: dinosaurs! This is the deck where you see Molder Beast and Fangren Marauder running alongside Gnathosaur and Ferrovore. It's the deck that hates artifacts, unless they're for dinner or to wear, and its creatures are big. It gains its advantage by forcing opponents to use multiple cards to deal with each threat, all while being able to remove any terribly offensive cards an opponent might play.These players know what it takes to stay undefeated.
Infect has gone through an interesting transformation with the addition of Mirrodin Besieged. We've been talking all weekend about the addition of infect to white, and it appears that Sealed players have embraced this addition. With the ability to play the classic infect cards alongside the new white ones and cards like Arrest, Revoke Existence, and Choking Fumes is enough to attract many players over to the lighter side of dark. But don't let that fool you. Just as there are two BW infect decks riding the pine at the top tables, there are also two of the classic BG decks we've all come to know and despise (or love, in Martin Juza's case). Those decks are built along the same skeleton as they always have been, with a few more options in terms of both infect creatures and equipment to put on them.For those of you who are unsure, this is what bombs look like.
The last deck at the top of the top is Katsuhiro Mori's RW deck. Having covered Mori's deck in round seven, it became clear to me that his deck was a little further from the norm than these other decks. Rather than favoring a slower tempo, Mori's RW deck is reminiscent of the RW decks from before Mirrodin Besieged. It puts the pedal to the metal and crushes opponents before they know what's hit them. Taking advantage of the new battle cry mechanic, Mori's deck is highly aggressive, with just enough burn to shove any pansy blockers out of the way. In the eyes of this deck, blocking is what creatures do when they're too weak to attack, and weak creatures don't belong in this deck.
There are definitely a couple more things to note about the successful Scars of Mirrodin Block Sealed decks. First, they all have some sort of bomb. Among the top tables, I saw Hoard Smelter Dragon, Wurmcoil Engine, and Contagion Engine. I saw a match between Molten-tail Masticore and Sword of Feast and Famine. The bombs are still what makes the deck able to take on the other elite decks. Most players seem more than willing to sacrifice a little bit of synergy and consistency for the raw power that bombs provide. Also, there seems to be a distinct lack of metalcraft decks in the top tables. Most of the decks are packing hordes of removal spells, which significantly weakens a metalcraft deck's ability to both get into and stay in metalcraft.
Hopefully, taking a good look at what's proving to be successful on the upper tables of the tournament can give you some idea of what to look for in your own pool as you sit to play a little Scars Sealed of your own!
Feature Match Round 9: "Mind and Body over Matter" – Florian Pils vs. Corey Baumeister
The players had been at the table for less than five seconds before the always gabby Baumeister started in on the far more reserved German.
"Is your deck fast or slow," Baumeister asked first.
"…uh, I don't want to answer that," Pils responded with a bit of a grin on his face.
"Poison or non-poison?"
"Metalcraft or non-metalcraft?"
"Mulligan or non-mulligan?"
"I'm just kidding, you can play first."
I've got to hand it to him. Under the kind of rapid-fire interrogation that leaves most hardened criminals crying for mommy, Pils just sat and laughed silently at Baumeister.
Pils started off with a mulligan, but appeared to significantly prefer his six card hand. Baumeister used a Silver Myr to power out a Spin Engine, enabling him to keep a Mountain up. Pils put together an interesting board with a Viridian Emissary and a Myr Welder. Baumeister had to pick the Welder up to read it. He then added an interesting artifact creature of his own to the board. Unfortunately for him, his Kuldotha Forgemaster would never see an untap step. Pils tapped four mana and put a Sylvok Replica straight into his graveyard.
"I like that combo," Baumeister said indicating the Welder in play.
The players had been trading damage for a couple of turns, Baumeister not blocking Pils' Emissary and Pils unable to block Baumeister's Spin Engine. Pils decided not to let Baumeister get ahead at all, and aimed his Welder at the Skinwing, using the Replica's ability to kill it. By that point, Baumeister was no longer worried about the Emissary and chose to block it with his Silver Myr. When Pils added a Tangle Mantis to his side, Baumeister blew it away with a Turn to Slag. Pils returned the favor by using a Mortarpod to kill the Spin Engine.
Baumeister had a Tumble Magnet and a Plated Seastrider, but his offense was lacking compared to Pils. A Dross Ripper with a Mortarpod is a scary thing, and Baumeister soon found himself needing to keep it tapped with the Tumble Magnet. Things looked considerably better when he found himself a Scrapdiver Serpent. Using the Serpent for offense and the Magnet for defense, he managed to keep Pils off him long enough to punch through for the final points of damage, taking the first game.
Florian Pils 0 – Corey Baumeister 1
"I'm going to draw this game," Pils revealed. "That mulligan was not fun."
"Yeah. You can do it again, if you'd like," Baumester suggested.
"I hope you don't mind that I'm taking my time to count my cards," Pils said with a smile. "I got a game loss earlier today. I used the Welder to imprint one of my opponent's cards and then forgot to give it back to him!"
Baumeister got his offense started with a Perilous Myr carrying an Accorder's Shield. While it wasn't a particularly large source of damage, it was a scary sigh. Meanwhile, Pils used his Iron Myr to ramp into a turn-three Tangle Mantis. Before he could ramp into any more, Baumeister used a Vivisection to sacrifice his Myr and draw some cards, aiming the Myr's ability at Pils's mana producer. Pils replaced it with a Myr Welder, which prompted a Q & A session with the judge about whether the Welder can gain multiple abilities (it can).
After confirming things, Baumeister bulked up his board with a Spin Engine and a Plated Seastrider. Pils added a Blightwidow to his. Rather than give the Welder something of value to imprint, Baumeister just melted it down with an Oxidda Scrapmelter. He also used his Spin Engine to waltz past Pils's defense. Before he could do that more than once, Pils shot the Engine down with a Sylvok Replica. Baumeister just upped things with a Scrapdiver Serpent. At the time, Pils had no artifacts. However he made a slight concession on the following turn when he dropped a Sword of Body and Mind onto the table. I guess that was worth it. He equipped his Tangle Mantis with it and sent it over.Corey Baumeister
Trample and Swords is generally a good combo. Combine that with protection from most of Baumeister's creatures, and Pils seemed to be in great shape. His Mantis attacked over, forcing Baumeister to really think about his move. Rather than simply throw something away, he simply started to peel cards off the top of his deck one at a time until he reached ten. Baumeister used a Quicksilver Geyser to return Pils's two unequipped creatures to his hand, enabling him to attack over and drop Pils to seven. He had equipped his Scrapmelter, his only nonblue creature, with the Accorder's Shield, giving it enough toughness to block the Sword-wielding Mantis.
When he made the block on the following turn, Pils blew him out with a Slice in Twain on the Shield, killing the only creature that could block the Mantis and putting Baumeister one attack away from death. He then replayed the creatures he had returned to his hand. Baumeister drew his card, but couldn't find a way to deal the other two damage his Serpent would have needed to end the game.
Florian Pils 1 – Corey Baumeister 1
Pils got on the board first, his Mortarpod beating Baumeister's Silver Myr into play, and then putting it into the graveyard. Pils followed with a Moriok Replica on his third turn while Baumeister simply passed the turn. When Pils tried for a Dross Ripper, Baumeister used his available mana to Stoic Rebuttal it. He then untapped and made a Tumble Magnet. He failed to make a fourth land drop.
Pils went digging after attacking, sacrificing his Replica to draw a couple of cards. He found a Tumble Magnet of his own, leaving no creatures on the board. Baumeister made a Skinwing on his turn, filling the void. Pils added a Myr Welder on his turn, equipping it with the Mortarpod. With the Dross Ripper in the graveyard, things could easily get ridiculous. Unexpectedly, Pils used the Welder to imprint the Moriok Replica and then sacrificed it to draw more cards.
"What are you digging for," Baumeister asked?Florian Pils
All he did after sacrificing his Welder was play a Tangle Mantis. Baumeister sent his Skinwing over to attack, leaving his recently recruited Myr Sire on defense, but Pils used his Magnet to stop the attack. When Pils untapped and tapped six mana, it became clear what he was digging for. Massacre Wurm came down, killing both of Baumeister's creatures and dropping him to nine. Baumeister just used his Quicksilver Geyser to return the Mantis and the Wurm to Pils's hand before untapping.
The leftover Myr Token picked up the Accorder's Shield on his turn and attacked, putting itself out of range to be killed by the Wurm. After Pils had invested the turn and mana into replaying the Wurm, Baumeister fricasseed it with a Turn to Slag. The Mantis followed on the next turn, as well as a Gold Myr, who picked up the Mortarpod. Baumeister hadn't added anything to his side during this time, and was left with his single Myr token carrying the Accorder's Shield next to a Skinwing. Pils attacked his Mantis into the 1/4 Myr token on his turn, using the Mortarpod to finish it off. This left Baumeister defenseless save a Tumble Magnet. An Oxidda Scrapmelter came down and took care of the Mortarpod Pils had just added to his Mantis, but it was met with a Burn the Impure. Pils also had a Sylvok Replica to destroy the Accorder's Shield that had kept Baumeister in the game this long.
Pils went to attack, but Baumeister was perfectly set up to play defense. He used a Quicksilver Geyser to return Pils' creatures to his hand, forcing him to spend his next turn replaying them. He then used a Blisterstick Shaman to kill the Iron Myr Pils had just replayed. The following turn, he found an Accorder's Shield for his Shaman, as well as a Perilous Myr. Unfortunately for him, Pils had a Spine of Ish Sah to shove the Shaman out of the way, sealing a Day 2 berth for Pils.
Florian Pils 2 – Corey Baumeister 1
Feature – Avoiding the Traps of Sealed
Today we crowned a new Player of the Year. Brad Nelson is officially the most successful Magic player of 2010. And one of the first things he told the coverage team after the Player of the Year Showdown was, "I misbuilt my Sealed pool by five cards."
To my mind, that's a pretty incredible statement. Here is inarguably one of the best people playing the game right now, and while he's putting on his crown, he recognizes that even he can't properly build a Sealed deck sometimes. And if Brad Nelson can't do it, how can us mere mortals?
I checked with some Pros to get their take how to avoid the traps of Sealed. And what are the traps anyway?
I think Sam Black perfectly illuminated the first pitfall: "Synergy is not as good as power." It sounds like a weird statement to say that synergy can be a bad thing, but Black went on. "In Sealed, you have to look at each card and ask 'Can this win by itself? If everything else was killed, will this card get there?'" Grand Prix Tampa champion Gaudenis Vidugiris knew exactly what Sam was saying. He said it was no good to put in a card that goes well with this card and this card because, "they're going to have an answer for this, this, and this. How does that card look after that?"
What they said sounded reminiscent of what I'd heard from Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Luis Scott Vargas who I'd talked to earlier. Paulo said, "A good Draft deck is not the same a good Sealed deck." I think that's a trap we can all fall into. Luis agreed; "It's always correct in Sealed to play the good cards; if I get a Carnifex Demon and a Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and no other black cards, guess what? I'm playing 8 Swamps in my deck."
Paulo was also quick to add, "and no aggression." He said aggression is just never rewarded in Sealed the way it can be in draft. To this point however, Gaudenis' words seemed to clash. He discussed with me ways to deal with a lackluster pool. "Sometimes going aggro is your Hail Mary pass. If you have less than two bombs and three or four pieces of removal, you need to make something happen." Sometimes you have to mise your way there. Sure it's an uphill battle, but it'll be better than fighting against control decks that are just getting than yours.
Gaudenis also talked about how a great way to avoid mis-building your deck is knowing the format. "In some formats 3/3s are bad. In this one, 2/2s are bad, but 3/3s are good." An important point to be sure, but it's also important to be in agreement with what the format is, because Brad Nelson seemed to think the opposite. "A Hill Giant is just not going to win you the game."
What does Pro Tour Philadelphia champion Gerard Fabiano do about the traps of Sealed? "Well, I mean of course there are no traps, because I build a perfect build every time. If you just do that, you'll avoid all the traps." In true Fabiano fashion, he somehow morphed this totally facetious comment into genuine advice by the end. He continued, "It's about lack of comprehension, sure, but really, lack of confidence. You have to trust in what you're doing – don't fall into the trap of listening to other people." He referred to Jonathan Sonne's Sealed deck at Grand Prix Toronto. "People made fun of him for not playing Wurmcoil Engine, but he was right, and they were wrong. It didn't fit into his deck at all. Don't listen to that guy who walks by and criticizes a card if you know it's right."
These are all great points, but in the end, there's only so much we can do. Nelson himself definitely put it the best: "You're always going to misbuild your deck; it's Magic. If this game were easy to play and master, we probably wouldn't play it." So there's the secret, guys: Don't play aggro, but go for it if you have to; Don't play 3/3s, but they're good; Always play the bombs, but sometimes you shouldn't play Wurmcoil Engine; And you're going to misbuild anyway. How are we mere mortals supposed to parse such conflicting answers from even the highest level players?
Perhaps Gerard was right, because there isn't one overarching right answer to Sealed. If you have the comprehension, you just need confidence to go along with it. Every single one of the people I talked to has had a good amount of Sealed success, but as Brad Nelson so aptly displayed this morning, just because you're the best player, doesn't mean you're the best you can be. Be confident, know the format, and for the love of all that's holy, play your Wurmcoil Engines.
Saturday, 9:05 p.m. – Interesting Sealed Decks
Who would have thought that one can actually build a very passable Kuldotha Red in Sealed! None other than Hall of Famer Raphael Levy created this beauty of a deck, which already took him to day two. The number of combos is astonishing: Piston Sledge, Kuldotha Rebirth, and Kuldotha Flamefiend all need sacrifices to be made, Myr Sire, Ichor Wellspring, and Panic Spellbomb are all happy to oblige. Lots of cheap aggressive creatures work well with battle cry, and the equipments work on so many different levels: There's Bloodshot Trainee, obviously, but then there's also Signal Pest and Spin Engine which are sometimes hard to block and can deliver lethal damage wearing Strata Scythe in no time. Last but not least, one of the problems with Signal Pest is that, if it can be blocked at all, it often cannot attack for lack of power. Not to worry, equipment can take care of that as well.
A very different approach was run by 2009 Rookie of the Year Lino Burgold. He originally built a red-white aggressive deck, but when the time (and match-up) was right, he sideboarded into a blue-white control deck which had one very specific trick up its sleeve: He actually killed twice with Blue Sun's Zenith! One time was a crucial win in the extra turns. He had two more turns, one card left in his library, and his opponent didn't know this one card was, in fact, the Zenith (it hadn't shown up before in the match). Both players had way too much life to ever be killed via damage (Lino because of Venser's Journal, his opponent because of Engulfing Slagwurm), so the opponent naturally assumed Lino would lose by running out of cards. He was quite surprised to find that, after all, he himself would be run out of cards! But even when not acting as an impromptu one-card milling strategy, the Zenith worked overtime in this deck, especially in combination with Venser's Journal.
Feature – Shooting the Breeze
Stepping away from the action for a minute, I collared one of the men who puts more miles into their Magic than just about anyone I know – the Brazilian star Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa. We sat down to chat about his Magic Weekend had gone.
How did the Pro Tour go for you?
I finished in the Top 64 which, you know... it's ok.Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa
You don't sound happy.
I'm not happy really. I mean our deck was really good so I was expecting a lot more. I was playing the Blue-White deck – two of us made Top 8, two made Top 16, so I know I could have done a lot better. I only have myself to blame though, I made a lot of mistakes and played pretty badly. I wouldn't have settled for Top 64 before the Pro Tour, that's for sure – we knew the deck was good.
What about the Magic Weekend – rolling a Pro Tour right on top of a Grand Prix?
I like it! I didn't think I would, because when I first heard what was happening I just thought it sounded really exhausting but it's been fine. Good, even – when I lose the only thing I want to do is get to the next tournament so I can start winning again and feel better. Dropping out of the Pro Tour and being able to right into a Grand Prix was great for me. I thought it was a shame that the players who made Top 8 in the Pro Tour weren't able to enter the Grand Prix, and I heard they've changed that now? But anyway, I guess if you've made Top 8 of a Pro Tour then you aren't that worried about playing in a Grand Prix so it all works out.
Moving on - Mirrodin Besieged – what has it changed, do you like it?
Yeah I like it, I think it really helped make a lot of decks possible. In Standard the Sword of Feast and Famine is really what made our deck from the Pro Tour exist. Well, it existed before but it wasn't very good – it's the Sword that sends it over the edge. Kuldotha Red is another deck like that – it existed before but now it's a real deck. Kuldotha Red didn't get played very much at the Pro Tour but it was a deck that we tested against a lot – I don't like it because you really have to go all-out every time, you can't hold anything back, but it's a good deck.
Like a Suicide Red?
Yeah, I guess so. If you hold back a little you just lose to people's normal draws. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is another good card, that's created a whole new archetype. I really think that the best Tezzeret deck hasn't been found yet but I think it exists and it's going to be really strong. The other card that I think makes a big impact is Thrun, the Last Troll – he makes it really hard for the Blue-Black decks to sit back and be completely reactive. I think it's one of the main reasons why Blue-Black isn't as good as it used to be.
And in Limited, in Sealed?
Well it's slowed things down a lot because you just don't get as many two-drops as you used to. I mean first picks matter a lot, still, but they always did in Scars as well so that's not new. What Mirrodin Besieged has done is made you go back and re-evaluate cards, and come up with new ways of deciding if a card is good or not. What made a card good in Scars is no longer true in a Scars-Besieged format. But that's fine as well, I don't mind longer games – I didn't like it when games ended on turn four!
It's still very unlikely that you will get a great Infect deck in Sealed, and a mediocre non-Infect deck is better than a mediocre Infect deck. Infect decks have to be really good or they're bad. You're still more likely to be non-Infect than Infect in sealed.
And finally, how did the Grand Prix go for you?
Well I'm out now – I just lost so I can't make the cut. I feel a lot better than I did this morning when I went 0-2 and wanted to kill myself. My deck was Red-Blue, no bombs really but it was solid. I managed to win three on the run and get back into contention but then I lost my last round. It happens.
Feature Match Round 10 - Gerald Leitzinger vs. Ken Yukuhiro (Sealed)
Only one round of play left today and both these stalwart combatants, Austria's Gerald Leitzinger and Japan's Ken Yukuhiro who finished Top 4 at Grand Prix Kitakyushu are in it to win it; they're both 9-0. However, only one will reach 10-0. Sad, but true; that's how competition works, folks.
Yukuhiro won the roll and made Leitzinger play first. Yukuhiro missed land drops two and three but still cast the first spell of the game with a fourth turn Viridian Emissary, following it with a Copper Myr. Leitzinger had a Myr Galvanizer and a Kuldotha Ringleader, significantly bigger than the one-butts of Yukuhiro. That still held true when Yukuhiro cast a Bonehoard to make a 1/1 Germ. However, the little pathogen turned 3/3 after an Arc Trail from Leitzinger took out the other two creatures. But Ringleader ain't getting stopped by no germs, and took Yukuhiro to 16.Gerald Leitzinger
One good turn deserves another, and Leitzinger saw his Ringleader Turn to Slag then the score turn to 16-14. After a Myr Turbine gave the Japanese player metalcraft, he took out a fresh Galvanoth with a Galvanic Blast – ironic, or expected? The metalcraft didn't last long, as Into the Core exiled both the Turbine and Bonehoard. Spread the Sickness from Yukuhiro cleared the remainder of the board and that made Leitzinger think it was safe to cast a Hellkite Igniter.
"Incoming!" Leitzinger roared as he slammed the winged serpent down. The Dragon hit once, but the man from Japan had other plans and simply Spread some more Sickness on the fire-breathing monster.
The score was 11-7 when an unanswered Sylvok Replica slowly plinked Yukuhiro down to 4. Finally a Fangren Marauder came off the top, but, "Mine!" said Leitzinger as he cast a Corrupted Conscience on the 5/5 as soon as he could. Lumengrid Gargoyle appeared next turn to block for Yukuhiro, but Leitzinger's Replica sent it to the bin (gaining him 10 life in the process) and an attack step later it was over.
Gerald Leitzinger 1, Ken Yukuhiro 0
Leitzinger's Oculus and Sylvok Replica faced off against a Viridian Emissary. And the two players traded two-powered blows until the score was 16-18. Yukuhiro seemed unhappy with how things were going, and he soon showed us why. He resolved a Blisterstick Shaman and targeted his own Emissary. Leitzinger let the creature spell resolve and Yukuhiro fetched out a Swamp. Leitzinger mustered only a Copper Myr as a response. Yukuhiro's Blisterstick acceleration allowed him to cast a Fangren Marauder a turn early, and it soon rumbled into the red zone and took down the Oculus.Ken Yukuhiro
Post-combat Yukuhiro cast a Contagion Clasp targeting the Copper Myr. Leitzinger responded with a Quicksilver Geyser returning his Myr and the Marauder. After that, there was still five mana left to cast a Myr Turbine, and the turn was shipped back to Leitzinger who had only a Sylvok Replica to keep him company. He re-cast the Copper Myr and Shattered the Turbine before ending the turn.
Yukuhiro re-played his Fangren Marauder and Leitzinger answered swiftly with a Kuldotha Phoenix attacking in the air. The Marauder cracked back to make the totals 11-14, then the Phoenix exchanged leaders again at 11-10. Leitzinger, being a total meanie, stealing the Fangren Marauder with Corrupted Conscience for the second game in a row, but it was OK because Yukuhiro had another big green beater just like the first. He simply Spread the Sickness onto his former creature and attacked with the shiny new one and a Myr token.
Leitzinger blocked the token and the totals went to 6-15. Yukuhiro followed with a Bonehoard. The Austrain started calculating damage. He cast Turn to Slag on the second Marauder ("I drew it last turn"), then used the Replica to kill the Bonehoard.
Gerald Leitzinger 2, Ken Yukuhiro 0
Saturday, 9:45 p.m. – On the Bubble
"Win and in", is the motto of this round. I took the time and looked at a couple of matches where some of the big names with scores of 6-2 were fighting to get into day two. Of course, there were many many more, even when only looking at the blue bracket, and grudgingly I had to make do with just four pairings conveniently seated close to each other.David Ochoa vs. Kim Lam Huynh
David Ochoa needed to defeat Kim Lam Huynh and despite all his removal, Ochoa couldn't overcome Precursor Golem plus Razor Hippogriff. Him drawing, of all things, Into the Core, which is never copied by the Golem's ability, didn't help either …Petr Brozek vs. Dishun Ouyang
Just two tables away Petr Brozek battled it out against Dishun Ouyang. In a cruel twist of fate, he had to face Phyrexian Rebirth—a card that had previously helped him win a couple of his own rounds. In the end, however, his Bladed Pinions-equipped infecters got there. In the final game Ouyang used Choking Fumes just to kill Plague Stinger, which must have been a big relieve to Brozek, because at that point he already controlled Inkmoth Nexus and was about to summon Tine Shrike.Lucas Blohon vs. Christian Bakkehaug
Right next to him sat fellow Czech Lucas Blohon, playing Christian Bakkehaug. In this match, the combination of flyers and bounce prevailed against his opponent's Argentum Armor.Tsuyoshi Ikeda vs. Daniel Gräfensteiner
One of the most high-profile matches, though, was between Tsuyoshi Ikeda and Daniel Gräfensteiner. In one game, Ikeda's Consecrated Sphinx died just in time to Spread the Sickness. In the other game, the Japanese just drew too many lands. Interesting sidenote: On his last turn, Ikeda was on 1 life and had accumulated nine poison counters. Then he died of the infection.
David Ochoa lost to Kim Lam Huynh.
Petr Brozek defeated Dishun Ouyang.
Lucas Blohon defeated Christian Bakkehaug.
Tsuyoshi Ikeda lost to Daniel Gräfensteiner.
Multi-Feature Match Round 9 - "Round Nine... Round Up!"
Round nine brings what is affectionately known as 'the bubble' to a head. Up to now a lot of players are living in a murky gray area where they might be coming back for Day Two of the Grand Prix, but equally they might not be coming back. In round nine a line is drawn in the sand and the situation is resolved – either you have three losses and you are out, or you have two losses and you are in. Wherever two players who already have two losses must play, it's a sudden death tie break round for a shot at glory.
In the black portion of the Grand Prix four big names stood at among the players scrapping for survival – two Europeans: Marijn Lybaert of Belgium, Simon Gortzen of Germany, and two Americans – Brian Kibler and Sam Black. They each faced a final test before they could scrape across the line and draft tomorrow.Simon Gortzen
Simon Gortzen vs. Alexander Privalov
For PT San-Diego champion, Simon Gortzen, things took an immediate turn for the worse. His opponent was the Russian, Alexander Privalov, and he roared into a swift first game lead. Unfortunately for Simon the second game went much the same way, and just as it began to look as though he could hope for having stabilised the board a Myr Battlesphere ended the game. All Simon could muster to fight the big artifact bomb was a Trigon of Corruption... which wasn't much at all. That was one thing that hadn't changed with Mirrodin Besieged – Myr Battlesphere is still as dangerous as it ever was!
Simon Gortzen 0 – 2 Alexander Privalov
Marijn Lybaert vs. Mats FurbyMarijn Lybaert
Belgian star Marijn Lybaert also looked to be in trouble. Hiis graveyard was a mass of artifacts and creatures that had been destroyed, and it wasn't hard to see what the problem was – Sweden's Mats Furby was sitting pretty with a Spikeshot Elder, Oxidda Scrapmelter and the new Uktabi Orangutan – Viridian Corrupter. Finally removing the Spikeshot Elder, Lybaert was able to get a foothold in the match and eked out a first game lead. The second game looked equally bad for the Belgian as he found himself stuck on four land. Usually four lands in plenty, but in this case Lybaert's hand was full of chunky monkeys – Bleak Coven Vampires, Soliton, Phyrexian Juggernaut, and a Quicksilver Gargantuan. But Mats Furby couldn't take advantage, and his beatdown force of Myr gave Lybaert plenty of time to draw into his land, at which point the firepower waiting in hand won the game comfortably to send the Belgian into Day Two.
Marijn Lybaert 2 – 0 Mats Furby
Brian Kibler vs. Steven JuseckBrian Kibler
For the Americans, Brian Kibler was in bad shape in his all-American matchup against Steven Juseck – to be precise he was in exactly the shape that is left after a Carnifex Demon has stomped angrily all over your face. Kibler had his revenge in the second game, though, playing a Grindclock early and rapidly ratcheting up through the gears to level the match. After two back-and-forth games it was a shame that the decider came down to land, but it did – Kibler forced to hang onto a one-land hand and then not seeing a second land for a few turns too many. For Brian Kibler it was another miss on the bubble, having missed out on the cut in Gothenburg last year in similar circumstances.
Brian Kibler 1 – 2 Steven Juseck
Sam Black vs. Jean-Philippe GuilletSam Black
That left one man – Sam Black of the USA. Just when it seemed like Black had the first game under control, with a Bloodshot Trainee and Copper Carapace on board, a Volition Reins turned the tables on the American. His opponent, Frenchman Jean-Philippe Guillet, never looked back from that switch in fortunes and took a 1-0 lead. The tide turned in the second game, however, and stuck on only three lands Guillet was outgunned – his myriad two drops put up a valiant defence but were just cannon fodder against the likes of Sam Black's Fangren Marauder. When Black added an Embersmith and began removing Guillet's blockers it was clear we were moving to a decider. The third game looked much like the second, with Black powering out his big green guys – a Tangle Hulk and the self-same Fangren Marauder. Guillet fought back a little more valiantly, finding a Revoke Existence for the Tangle Hulk, but was ultimately doomed. At the point where he played a Phyrexian Revoker naming 'Embersmith' only to immediately realise that Embersmith's ability was triggered, not activated, he knew that the game was up. The Force was flowing strongly for Sam Black, and as a Barrage Ogre joined the Fangren Marauder on the board for a party (presumably the sort of party where a lot things get wrecked) Guillet offered his hand in defeat.
Sam Black 2 – 1 Jean-Philippe Guillet
Feature Match Round 10 – Raphael Levy vs. Daniele Canavesi
Raphael Levy of France and Daniele Canavesi from Italy had only received one loss so far, and both were looking to keep it that way for a good 9-1 start into day two.
Levy began with Flayer Husk, followed by Myr Sire. His opponent had Fume Spitter and then Ichor Wellspring. He made no play on turn three, whereas Levy further developed his offense with Chrome Steed. A Perilous Myr from Canavesi was a temporary setback, though, and Levy went into the tank. When he emerged he had his solution, cast Panic Spellbomb, and prevented the Myr from blocking. His team went in and Canavesi's Fume Spitter blocked and put a counter on Chrome Steed, so that next turn his Perilous Myr might be able to take down the Steed on his own.Daniele Canavesi
Canavesi summoned Bloodshot Trainee, Levy cast Concussive Bolt to once again tamper with Canavesi's blocking abilities. The Italian summoned Thopter Assembly, but before that could do any harm, it was shot down by Turn to Slag. A Carnifex Demon on the next turn, however, spelled trouble for Levy. He had finally run out of gas, and the big flyer got rid of his remaining creatures. But he was still not completely defeated. He cast a Bloodshot Trainee of his own, and only needed to find one way to pump it to shoot Canavesi dead.
Canavesi, however, cast Morbid Plunder on Thopter Assembly and Perilous Myr, and replayed the Myr. The combination of that and the last remaining counter of the Carnifex Demon was able to kill the 2/3. Now only Kuldotha Flamefiend could turn this game around for Levy. He didn't draw it and succumbed to Demon and Thopter beatings in quick fashion.
Raphael Levy 0-1 Daniele Canavesi
This time, Levy had a slow start with his first play, Spin Engine, on turn three, while Canavesi had Perilous Myr and his own Spin Engine. The two Engines traded and Levy made Skinwing. Canavesi had his own living weapon in Strandwalker, a development about which Levy didn't seem too happy … He cast Ogre Resister, though it was not clear what this Ogre would be able to resist. Certainly not the Go for the Throat, Canavesi cast on it.Raphael Levy
Next, Canavesi recruited Oxidda Scrapmelter and destroyed Skinwing. Levy summoned a lowly 2/2 Chrome Steed, now his only creature, and was already with his back against the wall, even before Canavesi cast Piston Sledge and equipped it to his Perilous Myr. All of his creatures, the Myr, Strandwalker, and Oxidda Scrapmelter, swung in. Levy blocked the Myr, took 2 damage when it died and another 5 points of combat damage.
Canavesi cast a Gold Myr, which died to Contagion Clasp, which in turn Levy sacrificed to Kuldotha's Rebirth, the tokens of which then traded with Oxidda Scrapmelter. But it was all too late, too little—Galvanic Blast delivered the final blow.
Raphael Levy 0-2 Daniele Canavesi